The Women’s Six Nations could break new ground next month with England’s match on the competition’s grand finale weekend set to be shown live on BBC Two, Telegraph Sport understands.
The first six fixtures of the truncated championship – which begins on April 3 and will see teams play three matches in an Autumn Nations Cup-style format – are also set to be broadcast live on BBC iPlayer, according to details seen by Telegraph Sport.
That could guarantee the biggest exposure to the competition in its history, although the recent postponement of this year’s World Cup is likely to have reduced buy-in from flagship, free-to-air channels.
Six Nations is expected to confirm kick-off times and locations on Tuesday, although organisers have already come under fire for finalising tournament details with fewer than two weeks until the start of the competition.
Hopes of securing a first title sponsor for the tournament also appear non-existent, despite Ben Morel, the Six Nations CEO, stating his ambitions to bring in a sponsor “from next year onwards” at last year’s launch.
According to a full tournament schedule seen by this paper, Ireland are set to have the healthiest broadcast exposure with the country’s national broadcaster, RTE, showing the team’s opening two matches against Wales and France respectively.
By contrast, England, the reigning Grand Slam champions and sole professional side in the competition, only have their third and final match scheduled on terrestrial television.
Sky have broadcast all of England’s Six Nations games since 2017 but, after a combined audience of 1.9 million watched England’s victories over France last November on BBC Two, there had been growing calls for a free-to-air broadcaster to maximise the tournament’s profile.
England will open the championship against Scotland at Castle Park in Doncaster on April 3, (kick-off 3pm) before facing Italy the following weekend at the Stadio Plebiscito (kick-off 2pm).
BBC Wales is also set to broadcast Wales’ second-round match with Ireland on April 10, although organisers are yet to confirm a location for the fixture.
The Six Nations will culminate in a grand finale on April 24 which will see the champions crowned, while teams that place second and third in their respective pools will face off with their opposing ranked side.
Should England’s grand finale game attract similar viewing figures to those of their November 2020 Tests, it could also provide an extra incentive for the broadcaster to show the semi-finals and final of this year’s Premier 15s competition in May. The RFU is thought to be in negotiations with a broadcaster for the finals of its flagship women’s competition.
2021 Women’s Six Nations fixtures
England v Scotland, Castle Park, Doncaster (kick-off 3pm, BBC iPlayer)
France v Wales, Stade la Rabine, Vannes (kick-off 8pm, BBC iPlayer)
Italy v England, Stadio Plebiscito, Padova (kick-off 2pm, BBC iPlayer)
Wales v Ireland, TBC (kick-off 5pm, BBC Wales and BBC iPlayer)
Scotland v Italy, Scotstoun Stadium, (kick-off 5pm, BBC iPlayer)
Ireland v France, Energia Park, Donnybrook, (kick-off 2.15pm, BBC iPlayer)
Italy v TBC (kick-off midday)
Scotland v TBC (kick-off 5pm)
England v TBC (kick-off 2pm, BBC Two)